Today in Apple history: PowerBook 165 becomes Apple’s most affordable laptop

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PowerBook 165 was Apple's most affordable laptop.
A less-remembered PowerBook, but an important one.
Photo: Miguel Durán/Wikipedia CC

August 16: Today in Apple history: PowerBook 165 becomes Apple's most affordable laptop August 16, 1993: Apple ships the PowerBook 165, a lower-cost grayscale version of the PowerBook 165c, which was the company’s first laptop to offer a color display.

The new model lacks the most attention-grabbing feature of the 165c, but it also brings its own claim to fame. The PowerBook 165 is Apple’s most affordable laptop yet.

PowerBook 165 lacks color, gains affordability

Apple introduced the PowerBook 165 as a replacement for 1992’s PowerBook 160. That computer was a great laptop in its own right, and was notable for being the first PowerBook able to drive an external color monitor.

In terms of its design and specs, the new PowerBook 165 was virtually identical to its predecessor. However, it lacked a floating-point unit while boosting processor speed from 25Mhz to 33Mhz.

Until the 165 arrived, Apple pushed the PowerBook 165c most heavily due to the first-of-its-kind color display. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a particularly good screen. The 8.4-inch, passive-matrix color display could appear dim if not viewed head-on under ideal conditions.

It proved so mediocre that users wanting a great color display on an Apple laptop were better off buying the PowerBook 180c laptop, an upgrade to the higher-end PowerBook 180. (See how confusing Apple’s product lines were in the 1990s?)

PowerBook 165: A good laptop at a great price

All these factors made the PowerBook 165 a great option. It clearly had an edge when it came to pricing. The black-and-white PowerBook 160 it replaced cost $2,480. And the models with a color screen basically broke the bank. The PowerBook 165c cost a whopping $3,870, and a fully kitted-out PowerBook 180c would set you back $4,079.

Meanwhile, the PowerBook 165 started at just $1,970 — nearly $300 less than the next-cheapest laptop Apple made at the time.

Today, the PowerBook 165 isn’t one of the laptops most people talk about when they wax nostalgic about Apple products. In the early 1990s, however — when laptops were extremely pricey — this was a solid machine at a very appealing price point. By today’s standards, it would cost $3,337.

Did you own the PowerBook 165? What was your earliest Apple laptop? Leave your comments below.

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